The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad more frequently referred to as, the “B&O” Railroad, began in 1828 with the ultimate goal of establishing a railroad line to the Ohio River.
Hollins-Roundhouse is a “Historic District“. In part it has this distinction because the nation’s first railroad system established a locomotive and car-building shop just south of this historic area on West Pratt St.
The newly established railroad increased immigration into the city; as a form of transportation and employment. Hollins Roundhouse in particular had a significant Irish and German community. Both groups settled initially in Fells Point, where their ships docked, but gradually made their way north and west to newly developing areas such as Hollins-Roundhouse. Upon moving to the area they built important churches, schools, and other institutional buildings. For example the Irish Catholic church, St. Peter the Apostle, built in 1843 in the Greek Revival style by a prominent local architect, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Hollins Market, is an Italianate-style market house built in 1838 and expanded in 1864. It is the oldest currently operating market in the city.
The actual market played an important role in Baltimore’s history. The market held two functions: the first floor was the public market where people could buy and sell meat and produce and the second floor served as a multipurpose meeting hall. Political campaigns, neighborhood groups, and even recreational lectures were held in the meeting hall.
As a working class neighborhood, the Hollins Roundhouse area was really impacted by the decline in the manufacturing field in the 1960s and 1970s. This resulted in a significant decline in the population and an increase in the number of abandoned houses. Over the next few decades, there were many efforts to rehabilitate and improve the neighborhood as problems with crime, poverty and housing increased over the the years. For example, in 1977 a $1.2 million grant funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration was used to renovate the market. Unfortunately, the potential benefits of the renovation project were impeded by the opening of Martin Luther King Boulevard just east of area in 1982 as well as the never completed I-70 spur located north of the area. These infrastructure projects created transportation issues into and out of the Hollins Roundhouse area which further isolated the neighborhood from the downtown area of the city.
Despite these struggles, residents still remained hopeful that the community, which had grown to be largely African American, could be improved. 54 row houses were rehabilitated in the 1990s by Hollins Market LP and Markets Mew LP –which were founded by two residents and investors from the neighborhood, Howard and Steve Loewentheil — using Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit. This rehabilitation project was coupled with the city’s plan to provide reduced down payments and affordable mortgages to qualifying low income buyers. Despite these projects, residents still felt that safety was a major concern and were dissatisfied by the lack of resources provided by the city to improve the crime rates and vacant/abandoned houses.
More recently, new efforts to improve the area began. In 2004 the Maryland University, Baltimore announced plans to construct a large biomedical research facility approximately four blocks east of the market. The BioPark which opened in 2010 is one of several businesses that have begun to bring new attention and improvements to the Hollins Roundhouse area. Zella’s Pizzeria, CUPs Coffeehouse, the Black Cherry Puppet Theater, City of Gods Shop, and Mi Ranchitos are other important restaurants and businesses bringing revenue into the area. CUPs is especially important as part of its mission is to employ, empower, and mentor neighborhood youth.
Although struggles continue, hope remains. The rich history and vibrant community of Hollins Market make this area a unique, hidden gem in Baltimore.
Historic Hollins Map-Photo Credit: